6 Secrets to Finding Vintage Treasures Online, According to Furniture Flippers

published Oct 19, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

These days, you don’t have to travel miles to the best antique dealer in your area, peruse a crowded flea market or thrift store, spend your weekend at garage sales, or scavenge curbsides during your town’s bulk pickup night to find the best deals on awesome vintage pieces. Those methods still yield great results, of course, but if you’re hoping to treasure hunt from the comfort home there are tons of online resources worth weeding through—you just have to know where to look and what to search for.

Here, seasoned furniture flippers share their secrets to success when it comes to sourcing great vintage buys online. Follow their lead to source your own treasures—without having to leave your couch.

Start your search on Facebook

Craigslist has long been an online source for furniture flippers, but in recent years, Facebook has really taken over, says Diana Wyzga, a furniture flipper from Reading, Massachusetts. Other flippers agree: “Facebook Marketplace is by far my favorite,” says Leslie Jarrett, a furniture flipper from Frisco, Texas. “There’s always new pieces listed and communication is smooth with Facebook messenger.” 

The only trouble? You have to act fast. Because Facebook is such a popular app, pieces go quickly, explains Jarrett. “You have to check frequently to not miss out on gems!” If you’re hunting for something specific, you’ll be best served by looking multiple times a day. Be prepared to message immediately and pick up quickly if something catches your eye.

It’s also worth expanding your search beyond Marketplace, says Wyzga, who finds many charming pieces through hyper-local groups dedicated to buying and selling or gifting vintage or unused furniture. Search for your city and the words “buy and sell,” “freecycle,” or “curbside” to find them.

Check out smaller sites, too

Though Facebook is the biggest gold mine, there are other deals to be had. You can find great deals on sites like NextDoor, where people in your neighborhood are trying to off-load furniture, says Jarrett. Other options include Offerup, Freecycle, and even eBay. Some areas also have services that host virtual estate sales, says Shay Alnwick, a furniture flipper in the United Kingdom.  

Opt for specific keywords when possible

While blanket terms like “vintage” or “antique” will likely yield results, people tend to use these terms interchangeably despite the fact that they are not synonyms, says Wyzga. To uncover treasures, it’s helpful to get a little more granular. 

If you can, type in specific brand names that you know represent quality, says Wyzga—like “Hitchcock buffet” or “Bassett furniture.” You can also narrow down your search using descriptive words such as the style you’re after, like ‘MCM, Edwardian, or Queen Anne,’” says Alnwick.

Browsing by material type can also help. “I’ve been loving marble top furniture lately, so searching for ‘marble’ has been my go to for finding beautiful pieces,” says Jarrett. It doesn’t even have to be a material you’re hoping to feature in your home: Searching “velvet,” for instance, might be a way to target vintage sofas you could re-cover.

Try a variety of related keywords, too

Don’t forget to tap into the synonyms that make sense. When looking for console tables, for example, try “console table,” as well as terms like “hutch,” “sideboard,” and even—quite simply—”table,” says Jarrett. Casting a wide net like this ensures you don’t miss a great piece just because you would use a different descriptor than the seller, she explains.

If you’re searching for a particular style of furniture, it might help to search target years, too. So for mid-century furniture, for example, you might search “1950s,” “1960s,” or “1970s.” That helps locate any pieces that were listed by year rather than style.

Don’t be swayed by poor photos

It’s important to never judge a book by its cover, says Jarrett: “Sellers will take the worst pictures of the most amazing pieces.” Especially because many people don’t realize what they have in their possession, adds Wyzga. 

“You have to be able to look past the bad lighting, horrible angles, or even trash on the piece,” says Jarrett. If you have reservations, don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions like how the drawers slide, if the veneer is peeling, or if the piece comes from a smoke-free home, she says. 

But do pay attention to the details

Good structure is key. If a piece has good bones, you can change the paint color, says Wyzga. If it doesn’t, you risk essentially having to rebuild it—something that will significantly cut into any profits or frustrate a newbie. 

As a measure of quality, look for markings or brand labels inside of drawers that provide a bit of history, says Alnwick. Other signs of quality pieces include dovetails on the drawers and original handles, she explains. 

What you should be wary of is a few red flags including structural sturdiness and pests such as woodworm, a larvae that munches on soft wood, says Alnwick. “I am not bothered by chipping veneer or wonky drawers, as I can fix all of those issues, but woodworm can damage the structure and make the wood fragile, which lessens the quality over all.”

Keep an eye out for signs of wood damage, such as discoloration, softness, or lots of holes and pass on anything that looks structurally compromised.